A perfect beat. You know one as soon as you hear it. Your face contorts like you just smelled something terrible, and you uncontrollably start bobbing your head.
Everyone has their own preferences, of course, and enjoys different types of beats, but there are some tracks that unanimously get praised for having a perfect beat.
But why do we love these beats so much? What did the producer do to get us to make that face?
At Unison, we’re all about crafting the best tracks possible, curating sample packs and knowledge so that you have all the tools you need.
Here are seven tips for making the perfect beat.
Table of Contents
1. Practice Makes Perfect
We know that hearing “practice makes perfect” isn’t the coolest thing to say at the top, but it takes some serious work to become a fully-fledged producer.
You probably won’t make the greatest beat of all time on your first attempt, even your 10th or 20th try. Being a producer is about constantly pushing your skills forward so that you’re always getting better and better at all of the following steps.
Even the greats will still practice their craft on a daily basis to stay as sharp as possible.
2. Collect Samples
Crate digging doesn’t mean what it used to, but it’s still an incredibly important element of the production game.
Instead of literally thumbing through records and looking for breaks or samples that shine, there are digital files available online for you to look through.
This is where Unison comes into play. We do the work finding and collecting all of the sickest samples for you, so you don’t need to spend as much time searching.
Kicks, claps, snares. We’ve got you covered when it comes to the most crisp, killer samples you could want. From futuristic trap leads to golden era style percussion, Unison has a wide selection of high-quality and unique sample packs to choose from.
3. Know How To Mix
You might have the right samples and patterns laid out just right, but they won’t catch anyone’s attention if your mix falls flat.
Mixing is a key ingredient when it comes to making the perfect beat. You want your kick drums punching out with attitude and your bass sitting comfortably underneath the leads.
We won’t go too far into the details, but here are some important tips when it comes to mixing a sick track.
Use EQ—The Right Way
EQ can be your best friend, but it can also make things sound worse if you aren’t careful. The most useful applications of EQ are blending sounds and reducing harsh frequencies.
Keep an ear out while working on your beat for anything that sounds shrill or grating. This could be too much mid to high frequency building up.
Using just a little EQ to carve out those grating frequencies will help a lot. You don’t want your listener wincing because your track is too sharp.
On the opposite side of the frequency range is your bass. Bass can be a tricky thing to balance with the kick drum and the rest of your track. You want it to be booming but not overpowering.
Using EQ to fine tune just how much bass you have coming through will bring a better balance to your whole track.
Compression, like EQ, is a tool best used in small doses. Compressors reduce the range of your volume, that is to say, the difference between the quietest part of your track and the loudest.
Finding an excellent and reliable compressor is important because some DAWs will come with a stock compressor that distorts as soon as it gets even a little action.
Go back and listen to some of your favorite beats. Is everything equal on both sides of your headphones? Or do some things live in one ear or even move around while you’re listening?
This is panning, and it can be a great technique for making your track more interesting, sound more convincing and make room for more samples.
Panning certain instruments like guitars, pianos, strings, etc., while maintaining an overall balance in the mix can make the listener feel like they’re directly in the middle of a wicked jam session. This can be much more interesting than everything just living dead center.
And if you just have all of your tracks in the direct middle of the mix, you’re likely to run out of room for everything faster. Panning certain sounds to the left or right lets you prioritize the center space for things like the kick drum, snare, and bass.
We’ll start by saying this about effects: Don’t go too crazy with them. A touch of modulation, reverb, or delay can make your track stand out. But too much of any of these, and suddenly you just have something strange and muddy.
Effects should be like just a little pinch of salt. Enough to add some flavor but by no means the main ingredient.
4. Have A Unique Sound
Some producers have a particular sound that you can easily identify them with. You can probably tell when a Timbaland track comes on or RZA, even J. Cole has a pretty specific producer sound.
This is because these producers are unique to themselves, making it easy to tell who it is. Not that they always make the same beat over and over, but there’s something special about what they do that only they do.
There’s a lot of music to listen to these days, and a certain level of familiarity is attractive to people. But when a track like Work It by Missy Elliott, produced by Timbo, comes on, people are immediately tuned in because nothing else sounds quite like it.
5. Don’t Overcomplicate Things
With all of the samples and effects available, it can be easy to overcrowd a good beat. But try to keep it simple. You want each element of your track to stand out and function together.
Kick drums have more impact if you spread them out, and hi-hats shine more when they aren’t rapid-fire the whole song. Great beats always have an aspect of space to them, even ones that may seem hectic.
6. Don’t Always Stick To The Grid
Whether it’s the drums or the sample, having a certain level of human error can add a liveliness to your beat that people love. Even if you aren’t going for a J Dilla type swing track, a small amount of imperfection can shake your beat up in the right way.
You don’t want your whole track to sound like a robot produced it. Even Daft Punk has a little swing in their music.
7. Ear Candy
The perfect beat needs something that just pops. It’s sort of indescribable, but you need something that lives somewhere in the loop that makes people say, “Wow, what was that?”
It could be the whole beat, or it could be something small, but your track needs something interesting that people just want to come back and hear again.
This could even be how you structure your track. Consider having the drums drop out suddenly at the end of a phrase so that they come back with even more impact.
Or perhaps add in an unexpected pattern change in your percussion. Even a single kick drum can make a big difference.
A perfect beat is one that gets you hyped up anytime you hear it. It gets your blood pumping and fills you with excitement. These tips combined with the samples we offer at Unison will help you craft beats that make your friends say, “Did you make this?”
The Importance of Panning | Ask Audio
THE TIMELESS APPEAL OF J DILLA: HIP-HOP’S BIGGEST INNOVATOR | High Snobiety
What is modulation? | Tech Monitor